Week 3: #Unlocked17 visits Brook House and Tinsley House

Between 30 October and 5 November, #Unlocked17 visited Brook House and Tinsley House, near Gatwick airport. Brook House has 448 beds, and Tinsley 119. When Tinsley House was established in 1996, it was the UK’s first purpose-built detention centre. Since then, the UK’s detention estate has expanded substantially: there are now nine immigration removal centres (people are also detained in short-term holding facilities and prisons).

We’ve also seen a lot of action taken this week, with people speaking out against immigration detention and calling for change. This includes a #TheseWallsMustFall workshop in Manchester, a new report from Women for Refugee Women, and lots more selfies! Scroll down for a round-up.

Inside Brook and Tinsley

The average length of detention in Brook House, according to the 2017 Prison Inspector’s report, was three months. The inspection team found 23 individuals who had been detained for over a year. The report states, “The length of detention had increased substantially and no work had been undertaken to understand this“.

Two years in Brook House

This week we heard from Paul, who was detained in Brook House for over two years. Paul recalls, “After a year and a half in detention, I reached a point where I had simply had enough. I thought: release me back to my life in the UK, or remove me to Jamaica, if you must, but please let me get out of Brook. I just didn’t want to be stuck in a prison next to the runway at Gatwick anymore…. 

When I signed up to return, I thought that at least then I would get out of Brook quickly. But it took nearly 6 months still.”

Paul’s story is yet another reminder of why it is #Time4aTimeLimit.

We also revisited some powerful blogs written by experts-by-experience about Brook and Tinsley in previous years.

In 2016, we heard from Ajay, who wrote a letter to his former self – the one he knew before he was detained in Brook House. He writes, “I had to collect ALL my strength to write this letter. I am writing it in difficult circumstances. … I think detention changed me a lot to be honest. I wonder if you’d even recognise me now if we saw each other.”

In 2015, we heard from Yann. He was detained for four months in Brook House. He was then moved to Morton Hall, then Colnbrook, and finally Harmondsworth. Altogether he was detained for a year and a half before being released back into the community.

Thank you to all those who share their experience – and to those who have sent messages of support and encouragement! 

Time to write to your MP

On the blog this week, Jon Featonby explained why now is the time for everyone to start taking action against detention, to ramp up political pressure for change: “The next six months are crucial in terms of opportunities to push for reform of a system which, as Unlocked will show, is broken…

Whether it’s writing to your MP, asking to meet them in their constituency surgery, or simply tweeting at them, we can all do something.

You can ask your MP to write to the Home Secretary asking her to introduce a time limit on detention, ask a question in parliament, or sign up to this Early Day Motion calling for reform.”

Speaking out against immigration detention

This week, Jose of #FreedVoices spoke at Amnesty’s #WriteforRights event:

Manchester says #TheseWallsMustFall

Also this week, a full house for the #TheseWallsMustFall workshop in Manchester. There’s a whole Storify for the event here.

We are still here: new report from Women for Refugee Women

This week Women for Refugee Women launched a new report assessing the government’s Adults at Risk policy. It finds that the approach “is not working to safeguard and protect women who are vulnerable, and prevent them from being detained.” 

Selfies!

The selfies keep on coming! It’s brilliant to see so many people challenging immigration detention and saying it’s #Time4aTimeLimit. Here are just a few of them…

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